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"Wij drinken weinig bier."

Translation:We do not drink much beer.

4 years ago

82 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/guardie16
guardie16
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I feel like in English I would say "we drink a little beer", not "we drink little beer", it that also a correct translation?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RemkoAlexander

'Wij drinken weinig bier' implies the people do not consume a lot of beer in general.

'We only drink one beer a month, so we do not drink a lot of beer.'
'Wij drinken slechts één biertje per maand, dus wij drinken weinig bier'

Hope that helps!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kreilyn
Kreilyn
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So, weinig and weinige are the same...?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ehsan_Mehmed
Ehsan_Mehmed
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weinig for het nouns and weinige for de nouns

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Laddie.Lass

weinig is added with an e at the end if it is placed between an article and a noun.

De weinige momenten

Het weinige vlees

This site is a lot of help, it thoroughly explains the rules of dutch grammar http://www.dutchgrammar.com/en/?n=Pronouns.id14

2 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeSuisJane
JeSuisJane
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No, "a little" is different to "little". This confusion seems to be popping up again and again here on Duolingo.

The sentence "We drink a little beer" would perhaps begin a sentence, for example, "We drink a little beer now and again". On the other hand, "we drink little beer" means "we do not drink a lot of beer".

It's like "a few" vs "few" - I'll continue with similar examples to further demonstrate what I mean - " we drink a few beers now and again" versus "we drink few beers".

See what I mean? :)

To be very clear, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/little explains both "little" and "a little".

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Your English sentence would actually be we drinken een weinig beer, as one might expect coming from English.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JoelusFeeus

That sentence seems like it might mean we drink a little (or small) bottle of beer rather than not drinking a lot of beer. Or is that the difference between klein en weinig?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EmWong
EmWong
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Yes. Klein(e) is the size and weinig(e) is the amount or duration.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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EmWong is right. In addition, weinig means little or few depending on whether the word is uncountable or countable. So in Dutch it's the same word in both cases. Maybe knowing this makes it easier to remember that it can't mean small.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/minichelonia

so, klein is in the same circumstances as "many" and for weinig it's "much"?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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No. Klein means small, little. It only makes sense for (countable) objects, not for a small amount of something uncountable.

In English the opposites are many/much - few/little. You have to choose between many and much, and in the same way between few and little, depending on (un)countability. In Dutch it's easier as the opposites are vele/veel - weinige/weinig. (It may help to think of the first word in each pair - i.e. vele, weinige - as the plural of the second.)

If you think about it, it doesn' t really make sense to use the adjective in little house also for milk, but not to do the same with the adjectives in small house and big house. Dutch doesn't have this particular irregularity.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JonvanderV

I agree. Veel translates to "a lot" in other questions, shouldn't weinig then translate to "a little" as well?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CJ.Dennis
CJ.Dennis
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If you remove "a" from "a lot" it won't make sense most of the time. I have a lot of water - I have lot of water. You can't assume symmetry! However, you can say I have lots of water or I have much water. Note in the last two examples you can't add "a" any more than you can remove it from the first example. This is what I mean by no symmetry! "a little" translates to "een beetje" ("a bit").

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mundomeister
mundomeister
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This sentence will not come in useful on my holiday to the Netherlands :P

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/robertm42
robertm42
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Use "wij drinken weinig water" instead.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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I used to think that few (even very few) native speakers would confuse little and a little, or few and a few, but it turns out that a few (even quite a few) do. It does not seem to be true that they have little trouble with it (very little trouble even), as I thought; instead, it appears they do have a little trouble (quite a little trouble even). And some of them come to this forum and insist that confusing little and a little is the right thing to do, or that only one variant is correct and the other exposes people such as Shakespeare or Swift as non-native speakers. (Or if not these, then at least others who make the same distinction.)

For the benefit of these, here is a small collection of YouTube videos explaining the difference:

Some of these explanations are too simplistic though. The difference is not really about positive vs. negative in the sense of being happy about the amount or not. That's only true for positive things: Having a little food left is good, having little food left is bad. For negative things it's reversed: Having a little trouble with the police is bad; having little trouble is much more desirable.

PS: Make sure you understand that in the context of translating "weinig bier" it does not make sense to interpret "a little beer" as "a small beer". The Dutch sentence is about beer consumption in general, not about an individual [glass of] beer that you may or may not have in front of you right now. Even in the English sentence this meaning is a little far-fetched, as it's not that common for several people to share a single glass of beer.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CJ.Dennis
CJ.Dennis
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I came here because I typed Wij drinken wijn en bier and I though it was a funny mishearing! I didn't expect to find a raging debate on whether the English phrase should have "a" or not!

As a native English speaker here's my take on it. We drink little beer is grammatically correct, sounds just fine and means We don't drink much beer. It is a sentence that I might say myself and expect to be instantly understood without anyone thinking I made a mistake. We drink very little beer - We hardly drink any beer. We drink a little beer can mean either We are drinking a small beer or We only drink a small amount of beer. johaquila is absolutely correct! Does We drink very little beer sound odd to anyone? Can you see the difference in the meaning of We drink a very little beer?

That being said, I think the best outcome is for the default translation to be We don't drink much beer and to accept We drink little beer but not We drink a little beer.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeSuisJane
JeSuisJane
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@cj_dennis - Here, here! I also would have expected everyone to know the difference between little/a little and few/a few. It is basic grammar, not something you learn at college, as someone suggested :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CJ.Dennis
CJ.Dennis
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@JaneVanClara Sorry to correct you when you are supporting me but it's "Hear, hear!" It's kind of like "I hear you, I hear you!"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeSuisJane
JeSuisJane
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Ah! Great, I appreciate it. (But so very annoying all the same, to be wrong about something like that.) It's always important to be corrected, otherwise we never learn! I have never seen it written down; I had just imagined it came from the idea of someone saying "here, here" as in "look here, at me, I agree!", but now I know otherwise :)

(Hello everyone else, I promise I'm not wrong about everything!)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CJ.Dennis
CJ.Dennis
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You can also think of it as "Listen to the other person! Hear what they are saying!" I've found that if a native English speaker speaks bad English they hate being corrected. But if they already speak good English they love being corrected! Strange, isn't it? So I generally avoid correcting people! Since you are here to learn a language I thought you might be open to it! Glad I was right!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeSuisJane
JeSuisJane
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That's a good way to describe it, like "hear the other person". Haha, to correct or not to correct? That is the question. My ultimate aim is to speak and write totally faultless, absolutely perfect English one day. Quite impossible, of course, but that doesn't make my endeavour any less worthwhile! Corrections welcome, whenever necessary.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jacobhilton
jacobhilton
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You're right. In English, the quantifier "little" is often preceded by the indefinite article before mass nouns i.e. water, air, bread, etc., thus yielding "a little water", "a little air", "a little bread". I had this same problem on a previous example.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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But Dutch works in exactly the same way. It makes a difference whether you drink little beer (not much beer) or a little beer (some beer). And Dutch knows the same difference between drinking weinig bier and een weinig bier. In both languages, the first is a negative statement indicating an upper bound on the beer consumption, and the second a positive statement indicating a lower bound.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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But English doesn't make that distinction, so "We drink a little beer" is the English translation of both. No native English speaker would say "We drink little beer"... that sounds so... un-English.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SeanMeaneyPL
SeanMeaneyPL
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Sorry to disagree, Jazzybard, but I am a native English speaker and "We drink little (= not much) beer", while that thought is regrettable, seems perfectly fine to me, as do sentences like "She has little time for him" or "There is little to choose between them". Just taking my second example "She has little time for him" implies that she can't stand him and doesn't want to talk to him. "She has a little time for him" implies that she is free for a short time and is happy to chat. Big difference.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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"Drink little, that ye may drink lang." - Admittedly, that's a Scottish proverb. So you may reply with the No true Englishman argument.

Are you just arguing this for drinking beer, or are you claiming that little needs an indefinite article in general? If the latter, I suggest you look at how Shakespeare used sometimes little and sometimes a little, clearly making the distinction I described, and consider whether you want to accuse him of sounding un-English.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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There's barely a sentence in Shakespeare that would pass for standard modern English. The fact you're using him to defend your position is laughable.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Amazing. With practically no effort I found plenty of YouTube videos of people explaining the difference between little and a little. Presumably there is a conspiracy to teach Early Modern English to learners of English as foreign language?

To be absolutely sure not to use a dictionary that may still be contaminated by old-fashioned usage, such as Webster's or the OED, let's look this up in Collins COBUILD, shall we? It's a mid-to-late-20th-century product based entirely on a corpus of real English usage. It has two separate definitions of [a] little as a determiner/quantifier/pronoun:

"You use little to indicate that there is only a very small amount of something. You can use 'so', 'too', and 'very' in front of little."

"A little of something is a small amount of it, but not very much. You can also say a very little."

So they distinguish between "a very small amount" ("little") and "a small amount" ("a little"). Not that the other dictionaries searched by thefreedictionary.com disagree, by the way.

American Heritage Dictionary: Defines little as small in size/quantity/degree. Defines a little as an idiom meaning "somewhat; a bit".

Now who is wrong? You or teachers and dictionaries?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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Are you a native speaker of English? No? Then stop arguing with native speakers of English. "We drink little beer" is unnatural, and sounds as unnatural as "we drink big beer". Despite the first being "technically correct", and the second not being so. To native speakers of English, they sound equally as unnatural. There are plenty of constructions that are technically correct in English that fluent english speakers would never use, and this is one of them. But fine, by all means keep trying to prescribe your ideas of English usage onto others. It's counterproductive to this projecct, though, because it looks more like "teaching people to translate Dutch into English only a Dutch person would use" rather than teaching people Dutch in this case.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kitt9

I agree the 'correct' translation sounds really horrible - I can't imagine any native speaker using it. I agree that adding 'a' before is not a literal translation but it is the only way to get a translation that sounds 'English'

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Nope. Adding the indefinite article changes the meaning. If you think this sentence isn't proper English you may be speaking a variety of English that has lost this construction, but more likely you are just thinking in the wrong direction and so don't recognise it:

Wij drinken weinig bier = We drink little beer = We don't drink much beer.

Wij drinken een weinig bier = We drink a little beer = We drink some beer. (Though the first two sentences might well be humorous understatements referring to drinking a lot of beer.)

Wij drinken een klein bier = We drink a little beer (probably non-standard) = We drink a small beer = We drink a small glass of beer.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EmWong
EmWong
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I asked my Dutch husband about "Wij drinken een weinig bier" and he said that no Dutch person would say that as far as he knows, and that it's not even grammatically correct. As a native English speaker myself, I agree with the other people on adding the article 'a' before 'little'. No native speaker I know would say, "We drink little beer." This is not to say that "drink little beer" is incorrect, especially since you have brought some examples from literature. I really do understand there is a difference and I think JustCallMeRemco explained it quite well too. I guess what I'm trying to say is that to most native English speakers, seeing that Dutch sentence, "Wij drinken weinig bier", we would more likely think, "We drink a little beer."

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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I am sorry, but this is really getting weird now. Some people claim to be native speakers and insist that it can only be said with the indefinite article. Others claim to be native speakers and insist that it can only be said without the indefinite article. So far only for English, but now you have introduced the same confusion for Dutch.

Fact is that both constructions have different meanings, and have existed in both languages (as well as in German, my native language) for centuries. In English, both are still in common use and are explained in grammars and in language courses for non-native speakers. For Dutch it may indeed be different. From my Google search it does appear that een weinig isn't used much any more, but it was definitely in use in the 19th century, when at least the written standard of Dutch was still a little more (i.e. a bit more; not: little more, which would mean not much more) conservative and thus closer to German. I guess it fell out of use because in common speech the same idea can often be expressed with the diminutive.

To repeat a quotation from Jonathan Swift that I used in my overly long response to a further comment by Kitt9:

"I am against Dr. Smith. I drink little water with my wine, yet I believe he is right. Dr. Cockburn told me a little wine would not hurt me; but it is hot and dry, and water is dangerous."

Both "little water" and "a little wine" refer to a small amount of liquid. But "little" puts it into a negative light: there is a low upper bound. And "a little" puts it into a positive light: there is a low lower bound.

Clearly, Swift wanted to say that he doesn't put much water into his wine and that Dr. Cockburn advised him that drinking some (possibly a lot, as this may be an understatement) wine would be OK. (Dr. Cockburn believed that drinking too much water is dangerous, especially in hot weather!) If we swap "little" and "a little" we get a very different meaning:

"I am against Dr. Smith. I drink a little water with my wine, yet I believe he is right. Dr. Cockburn told me little wine would not hurt me; but it is hot and dry, and water is dangerous." (Not what Swift wrote!)

Now it says that he puts some water in his wine and that Dr. Cockburn advised him that not drinking much wine would be OK. The last part essentially contradicts Dr. Cockburn's (absurd) advice that water is dangerous when the weather is hot and dry.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EmWong
EmWong
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It's always been weird because it's language. As many people know, language is rarely A=A and B=B. So many exceptions and contradictions and it changes all the time. New words, new rules, new methods...and the old stuff begins to slowly fade away. I don't know what others think, but I think that "a little" should be accepted as well, even if the context implied is (slightly) different. (Which is also a large part of this sentence too. There is so little context, who is to say what the person really means, little or a little?) If Duolingo absolutely won't accept "a little" (since I find they are very strict sometimes), then that's fine too. But that's what this whole discussion is for, so people can learn more than what's in that box. You've pointed out that there is a difference, and I agree.

I have asked a few more Dutch people (i.e. native Dutch speakers) and they have all said that "een weinig" is not right to them and it should just be "weinig". One did also say that "een weinig" is old Dutch, and that it is the same as "een beetje". Then I asked them to translate, and my husband said "We drink little beer," but he also immediately said, "But that sounds weird. 'A little' sounds better." All others also agreed that "a little" sounds better, but they all also said that they would just say it differently as well, for example, "I don't drink much beer," or "I drink very little beer." Their point was that just saying "little" sounds very strange to them and that something needs to come before "little". So it's not just the native English speakers, but the Dutchies I've spoken to also find the English sentence unnatural.

In the end, I rather listen to the opinions of several Dutch people living in the now on their language, and to converse accordingly, rather than talking like I learned my Dutch from a 19th century book! ;)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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The person who said that "een weinig" means "een beetje" (or that that's what it meant when it was still in use) was exactly right. And in English it is exactly the same, except that "a little beer" is a perfectly normal way of expressing it and "a bit [of] beer" is quite unusual. Most people would say "some beer" instead.

But this is not a small nuance that doesn't make a difference:

We drink little beer. = Normally we don't drink beer.

We drink a little beer. = We drink beer. Probably a lot of it, although we prefer to use an understatement because that's what most people do when talking about their alcohol consumption.

The meanings are almost exactly opposite. Therefore you can't add the definite article here any more than you can simply add or remove a negation. Even if that makes the sentence sound nicer in the target language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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I think you're not realising that "We drink a little beer" means in English EITHER that we're not drinking much beer OR that we drink some beer. It can mean equally both in English. "We drink little beer" sounds like someone's put the wrong words together, or a foreigner trying to speak English.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Clearly your variant of English is very different from the variant of English used by great English writers for centuries. I have presented an example of Swift using little and a little in a contrastive manner. Given that "drink little" is still quite strong compared to "drink a little" on Google's n-gram viewer, I think it's clear that the language is in the process of losing this important distinction right now and you are one of the progressives. That doesn't make the conservative speakers wrong, though.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mrbennet
mrbennet
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Jazzybard, I'm a native English speaker (grew up in NZ, have also lived in the UK and Australia), and I can confidently say that there is little merit in your argument. By which I mean "not much," rather than "some."

Sure, "we drink little beer" sounds slightly formal to me (although even that probably depends where you're from), and we'd be more likely to say "we don't drink much beer," but it's certainly not non-standard, and it doesn't have the same meaning as "we drink a little beer." Johaquila's explanation of the distinction has been consistently spot on, and it's clear that the exact same distinction exists in Dutch. I absolutely disagree that "we drink a little beer" should be accepted here - it has to be either "we drink little beer" or "we don't drink much beer" (with the latter perhaps being the preferred translation).

Incidentally, the same distinction between "little" and "a little" also exists in French (my other native language) and Spanish, so it's a remarkably well conserved construction.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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@Jazzybard: I think the point where you consult a dictionary or other reference source and then silently withdraw in shame from this silly conversation is overdue now.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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My "variant" of English is quite standard, thank you. Swift is hardly Modern English. This isn't a change that is happening "right now", it is dead and gone, for at least 50 years, maybe more. "It doesn't make the conservatives wrong", but it does make "We drink little beer" non-standard in modern English, and certainly not the preferred translation, certainly not the one duolingo should be using. Perhaps the preferred translation should be "we don't drink much beer", but "we drink a little beer" should certainly be accepted as well. You've got to see the writing on the wall here; you're wrong, and your obstinance is undermining this project.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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As the dictionary definition of "little" has never been in doubt, only its use in the sentence "we drink little beer", that's unlikely. Nice try, though. There's a saying. "Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is choosing not to put one in a fruit salad." I'd equally say, it goes the same for knowing that "little" means "not much", but choosing not to form the sentence "we drink little beer". "We don't drink much beer", "we drink a little beer", "we drink very little beer", "we only drink a little beer", all of these would be preferred by a native English speaker over "we drink little beer", which, I think it would be unlikely to get a native English speaker to construct in a natural scenario (as in being asked the question "Do you two drink much beer?") even if afterwards asked to come up with alternative ways of saying "we don't drink much beer" (which would probably be their answer). The use of little in this sense tends mostly to be confined to abstract nouns, and then often with dramatic, poetic, or sarcastic implications, such as "I have little appreciation for your stubborn foolishness." Unless the dutch sentence "Wij drinken weinig bier" also would naturally convey such overtones, I suggest that the preferred English translation shouldn't.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kitt9

As an English person I speak English proper, and have had a lot of contact with tourist in England I can assure you that while you may be technically correct I promise you that if you use that term in England most English people will start talking to you much slower and louder because they will automatically spot you as a non-native English speaker and be worried you are not understanding them properly.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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I actually lived (and studied/worked) in England (Cambridge, Yorkshire) for a total of three years and never got the treatment you described. Standard British English definitely works that way:

The Beatles sang With a little help from my friends because that puts the amount of help received in a positive light. With little help from my friends is a line that would be more appropriate for a really depressive song. If you move house and ask your friends to give you a little help, you are likely to get some. If you ask them to give you little help, don't be surprised if you get only moral support or the offer of a hot meal on the day when you are carrying your piano alone.

You are of course free not to use the phrase "little beer" (meaning not much beer), but then you are depriving yourself of a perfectly standard construction that the best English authors have been using for centuries. Of course there are instances of "drink little beer" on Google Books. Maybe they can help you realise that you are actually familiar with this idiom:

  • The daughters drink little beer or wine, preferring cocktails. (Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1950)
  • They drink little beer, but much milk; their dress is dark and plain, and they wear wooden clogs. (Frank Leslie's Sunday Magazine, 1885)
  • They are a bit more expensive to invite though because they eat good food and only drink little beer. (A Study of Conversion Among the Angas of Plateau State of Nigeria with Emphasis on Christianity, 1991)
  • They drink little beer, but much of a queer brown liquid which leaves brown dregs at the bottom of the pot. (The Drums are Beating, 1966)
  • A matter of two hundred bales, which any small gardener in Nelson would produce, sent over there would swamp the market in a country where they drink little beer. (Parliamentary Debates of New Zealand, 1895)
  • For how can Corn and Wool be dear // since Popish Lords drink little Beer (The Bagford Ballads: Illustrating the Last Years of the Stuarts, 1878)

With other beverages there are additional instances:

  • Those who drink little wine, and do not depend upon that little ; those who do not smoke or can easily dispense with smoke, — would have voted for the ladies ; and the ladies would have carried the day by the majority which is so hard to get, ...
  • "I drink little wine," said the prince, " and I am unwilling that what I do drink should occasion any burden to my people.
  • The warriors, however, would drink little wine, for they needed to supervise the people's celebration and maintain their own sobriety for the battle ahead.
  • The common belief that we drink little wine because we like stronger drink better in our northern climate, finds no sanction in Mr. Bateman's tables.
  • But the Turks, mainly Muslim, drink little wine themselves.

  • If you normally drink little milk or have chosen a nondairy diet, you can get plenty of calcium from calcium-supplemented juices or soy milk, or from calcium supplements in tablet form.

  • For children who drink little milk, the 8% calcium boost in a cup of Tang would be advantageous.
  • For example, those in the 1st percentile drink little milk, so their vitamin A intake increases only slightly as the level of addition of vitamin A to milk increases. In contrast, those in the 99th percentile, who drink much more milk, ...
  • Japanese Americans drink little milk and eat few dairy products.
  • If the heads of the family drink very little or no milk, the chances are greater that the other members of the family will also drink little milk.
  • Many women this age normally drink little milk. Rather than getting used to milk again, a woman may appreciate suggestions on other ways to ingest calcium, such as puddings or yogurt.
  • Given that the older half of the population often tends to drink little milk and have limited sun exposure to exposed skin, vitamin D deficiency is quite common in the at-risk population.
  • These societies do not raise herd animals for milking and they drink little milk.
  • Mexicanos tend to drink little milk, but they use it in a variety of ways in cooking.
  • Many small children voluntarily drink little milk, but an ingenious mother can increase the intake by fortifying milk puddings and other foods with dried skimmed milk, introducing process or similar cheese, and flavoring or coloring the milk.
  • Strangely, the sweating Chinese exude no smell: this is because they eat little meat and few fats and drink little milk, which is the food of babies.
  • As a means of maintaining their internal salinity, freshwater fish drink little water and produce large quantities of dilute urine. On the other hand, most marine fish drink large quantities of water ... (Saltwater Aquariums for Dummies)
  • The Gut Fishes living in fresh water drink little water, but teleosts in the sea must swallow sea-water in order to compensate for their osmotic losses
  • Because of this low humidity, the Hopi people have conditioned themselves to drink little water. (Hopi Cookery, 1980)
  • Because cats are descended from desert animals, they tend to drink little water, and this is a problem if a cat is eating only a dry diet. The lack of water can cause constipation ...
  • I try to drink little water during my meals because it reduces the acid I need to digest my food properly. (Health Secrets for Baby Boomers, 2005)
  • Yellow urine is produced when we drink little water on hot and sunny days.
  • Old people, thin people, and babies, who drink little water, consequently have little blood and dry skin. (A Divided World: Apinayé Social Structure, 1982)
  • The same causes produce the same effects on other people ; they are all subjected to the influence of habit; they drink little water ; they rarely wash the body from head to foot, and seldom or never take coldbaths. (Hydropathy, or, the Cold Water Cure, 1842)
  • All green vegetables are particularly valuable to those who drink little water.
  • Some of these true-blooded Germans drink little water--just beer. (Sawmillers and the Family Tree, 1965)
  • It may be accepted that sheep in such paddocks will swallow varying amounts of the bacilli in question with their food and water, although such animals drink little water when food is succulent.
  • Many people drink little water from the tap; they may use bottled water or watery beverages such as beer. Beer drinking is not unheard of in the pubs of England.
  • I am against Dr. Smith. I drink little water with my wine, yet I believe he is right. Dr. Cockburn told me a little wine would not hurt me; but it is hot and dry, and water is dangerous. (Jonathan Swift, in a letter to Mrs Dingley, 1712)

The last one is the best find, not just because it is by a great British author, but also because it demonstrates the difference between little (low upper bound on the amount) and a little (low lower bound on the amount, though a somewhat higher upper bound is also implied except in understatements).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hazujh
hazujh
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almost a thesis for a comment :p

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bkeeler

Sounded a lot like "Wij drinken wijn of bier" to me :(

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DeKilte1

Sounded like Wij drinken wijn en bier to me. :/

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonothan16

There seems to be a lot of confusion from native English speakers about the use of "little" vs "a little" and "few" vs "a few".

First let me start by stating that just because someone is a native speaker of English, does not mean that he or she has a proper sense of grammar. It's obvious that many native English speakers screw up grammar all the time.

Second, I think that if we change the object of the sentence to something besides "beer", people might understand difference better. So here is another example that might elucidate the difference for some people:

1) I have little patience for disrespect. 2) I have a little patience for disrespect. The first sentence is saying that you basically don't tolerate disrespect. You don't put up with it. The second sentence is saying that you have some patience for disrespect. You can put up with some of it here and there. If I went for a job interview and the manager asked me, "So tell me how well you deal with disrespect," and I answer with #1, I'm telling him that I am not going to put up with it. If I answer with #2, I am telling him that I can deal with it here and there.

Now for the beers. It might be helpful to add to the sentence a little. 1) I drink little beer (ever since my surgery) 2) I drink a little beer (every now and then) Sentence one is saying that you almost don't drink beer anymore. You drink it sparingly. Sentence two is saying that you drink a small quantity of beer.

Same with "few". 1) There are few people in my class = there aren't a lot of people. 2) There are a few people in my class = there is a small amount of people. Like the previous example, the first sentence is focusing on the overall presence of something (having patience, having beer, having people) while the second sentence is focused on the quantity of something (amount of patience, amount of beer, amount of people)

8 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
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I didn't try it, but could this also be "I don't drink much beer?"

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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(I am assuming you mean "We don't drink much beer.")

I think this has become the most popular way of expressing the same thought in English, and so it should definitely be accepted. In fact, given how many native English speakers in this sentence forum and a few similar ones are claiming there is no difference between little and a little - or that only one is correct and the other isn't English at all -, it appears that your variant is in the process of completely replacing the traditional one.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mangakoibito
mangakoibito
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I agree the only people who know what to do with this usage seem to be the english majors, of which i am not, we tend to default to "we dont drink much beer" and the like.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EmWong
EmWong
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I am still a bit curious to see how the argument is unfolding and wondering if someone from Duolingo will be stepping in.

The way I see it is that no one is wrong and instead people are arguing two different aspect. One side is saying "little" and "a little" are different enough that "a little" should not be accepted for this sentence. Basically, the argument is on the grammar (and implication). This side is absolutely right. It's factual, the sentence is grammatically correct and the one letter (and space) making a difference is there.

The other side is saying that the sentence is unnatural (sounding) and that adding 'a' makes it sound slightly more natural (even if it does change the sentence's meaning). This is more of an opinion based on people -speaking- English every day in the 21st century. I can't say it's wrong nor right, after all it's an opinion.

However, I think both sides agree on one particular thing: there are much better English sentences to say or use to portray the meaning of the Dutch sentence.

Metaphorically put, one is arguing an orange is an orange and not a mandarin, and the other is arguing the orange is sour to him and the mandarin is slightly less sour, but you all would rather have a tangerine, a kumquat, or a lemon!.

For the sake of humanity and our sanity, let's cool it before we start the name calling and retract our claws back into our cute fuzzy paws. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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Except there is a bit more than a feeling on the one side, and here, I think I can prove it:

Pairs with less contrast: "I put little sugar in my tea" vs. "I put a little sugar in my tea" "There's little water in the bowl" vs. "there's a little water in the bowl" "There's little oil in the engine" vs. "there's a little oil in the engine"

Pairs with more contrast: "There's little hope for reconciliation" vs. "there's a little hope for reconciliation" "I have little faith in gut-feelings" vs. "I have a little faith in gut-feelings" "We found little reason in his logic" vs. "we found a little reason in his logic"

Wow, the contrast comes alive in the last pairs the way it wasn't present in the first, doesn't it? That's because the former are CONCRETE nouns, and the latter are ABSTRACT nouns. As beer is a concrete noun, this makes this sentence an example of where "a little" and "little" have close to the same meaning, not an example of where the meaning contrasts. As such, "We drink a little beer" SHOULD be accepted as a correct translation.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mrbennet
mrbennet
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It's true that there's less contrast with abstract nouns than with concrete ones. Thanks for pointing that out, it's interesting, and I probably wouldn't have spotted it myself.

However, there is still a contrast, even if it's subtler with concrete nouns, and I think it's an important enough contrast that "we drink a little beer" shouldn't be accepted. Where possible, I want Duo to teach me the subtleties of the language, not just give me a broad impression. Cases like this, where a direct word-for-word translation makes sense, are particularly good for highlighting those subtleties, and I think allowing "close enough" translations would be counter-productive in these cases. Especially when there are alternatives that better preserve the precise meaning of the original, like "we don't drink much beer" and "we only drink a little beer."

There are certainly other cases where it's practically impossible to convey exactly the same meaning (at least between English and French - it's probably true for any pair of languages, but those are the two I speak natively), and it makes sense to allow more leeway for those, but I think it's neither necessary nor helpful in this instance.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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See, I disagree, because given the right intonation and context--and that's pretty easy because, in this case, I think that'd be most contexts--"We drink a little beer" can easily have the exact same meaning as "We don't drink much beer". There are certainly instances in this course where much more dissimilar translations are given equal billing as alternates. It's particularly true that the main translation of "we drink little beer" is unnatural in standard modern inglish in most circumstances. I would discourage anybody studying English to use such a construction with concrete nouns, or at least approach them with caution, because it's so seldomly used by fluent English speakers unless in a dramatic, theatrical, literary, or sarcastic sense.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Thanks for helping to get to the bottom of this disagreement.

I think if you feel the way you have described it's probably a consequence of the indefinite article in a little being on its way out because people pronounce it less and less clearly and for some speakers it's already gone completely. Among the latter one can probably find some who would still use it in writing down their own speech because they think they are still pronouncing it, and others who are aware that they are dropping a completely.

We are all getting inconsistent input on this. In written speech and formal oral speech the indefinite article is very obviously there; in informal oral speech it is often missing; in written dialogue this can happen as well, though that's less frequent. We all have to come up with a way of integrating this conflicting information into a rule that makes sense.

For you there is a contrast between abstract and concrete nouns. This makes sense because English distinguishes these two classes of nouns for other purposes and because there should be a strong statistical correlation between the two kinds of speech and the two types of nouns. It's a perfectly valid way of dealing with the situation and probably not a rare one either. But it's not one that necessarily generalises to all speakers of the language in one region, let alone to all standard variants of English. Your position that a little beer is an acceptable, or even preferable, variant of little beer only makes sense for those who are (a) dealing with the problem in the same way (or a similar way) and (b) complete little to a little in their mind when speakers drop the indefinite article. (This is a simplified account. It is possible that among the people surrounding you there is a critical mass of those who see things that way, so you have no chance of seeing things differently.)

I am sure there are more than two ways of dealing with the conflicting information, but I can only tell you mine. (Maybe someone else can contribute a third variant.) In my idiolect, the contrast is just as strong for concrete nouns as for abstract nouns but can become inaudible in oral speech. When I hear someone say "I put little sugar in my tea" and they seem to be the kind of person who drops the definite article, then I don't know what they mean, precisely, but don't think about it because it doesn't matter to me. With "oil in the engine" it does matter, but I can figure out the meaning (with or without a) from context. So I differ from you in (a). On (b) I actually agree with you. (I lived in an English-speaking country only for some years of my life, and even there my contact was mostly with academics. Therefore my exposure to article dropping has been limited. Still I am sure that many English speakers have similar instincts, especially among the older generation.)

Others may have a third alternative regarding (a). And I guess a lot of people will agree with you on (a) but disagree on (b). This includes those who drop the indefinite article in speech and are aware that they are not pronouncing it. For these, "a little beer" is the unambiguous variant (and definitely misleading in a translation of our Dutch sentence), and "little beer" is the ambiguous one.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jazzybard
Jazzybard
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It's true that the article is unstressed, but I wouldn't say it's on its way out; because it is when it is absent is when it sounds unnatural to an English speaker. But you very well could be onto something here. It could be that you and potentially other people learning English hear people saying "we drink a little beer" and because the article is so unstressed, interpret it as "we drink little beer", and thus it reinforces the paradigm that exists in other languages, or that matches uses with other noun classes like abstract nouns in which people learning English have been taught the adjective "little" can mean. I'm absolutely certain without doubt, however that among native speakers the article is most definitely usually there in that kind of circumstance; its absence is what seems peculiar. The unstressed quality of the article very well could be the root or at least a driving factor of why the language began avoiding that construction with concrete nouns to the point that it sounds so alien nowadays.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Your interpretation appears inconsistent with the direction of language change. The distinction is strong and consistent in the written standard, and it is strong and consistent even in oral speech in Dutch and German. It follows that it has once been strong in spoken English as well. The obvious difference between English on one hand and Dutch and German on the other that would cause this is the fact that the English indefinite article has been reduced much more.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeSuisJane
JeSuisJane
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Everybody, johaquila is correct regarding "a little" versus "little" and "a few" vs. "few". There is only one correct answer from a proper English point of view, and it is that "a little" refers to "some" whereas "little" refers to "not much". Anyone arguing against johaquila is just wrong, I'm afraid.

For example, "I drink a little beer at parties" means "I do drink some beer at parties". On the other hand, "I drink little beer at parties" means "I do not drink much beer at parties". Case closed, no exceptions!

I understand the point that many of you are making - that it is uncommon to SAY in very casual conversation "I drink little beer", but even so, it is by no means wrong or archaic. In written English especially, "I drink little beer" is absolutely clear and correct.

In a similar way, it's uncommon to SAY "I cannot swim" - "I can't swim" is heard aloud much more often. This does not (doesn't!) mean that "I cannot swim" is wrong or unnatural.

Please in future perhaps check the facts in an English grammar book before embarking on a lengthy discussion if you are only basing your argument on your own ideas.

OK, that's all! :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CJ.Dennis
CJ.Dennis
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I put little sugar in my tea can mean I rarely put sugar in my tea.

I put a little sugar in my tea means I do/often/always put sugar in my tea but only a small amount.

There's little oil in the engine means There's not not enough oil in the engine.

There's a little oil in the engine means There's not much oil in the engine but it's enough for the time being.

With your example of water in the bowl there is neither a positive nor negative connotation so they both mean the same thing, unless context dictates otherwise:

There's little water in the bowl. The fish will die!

There's a little water in the bowl. The fish are OK for the moment.

There's little water in the bowl. It's dry enough.

There's a little water in the bowl. It's supposed to be completely dry!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarimerP
MarimerP
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Why is it weinig bier and not weinige bier? I thought het words would have the -e except in some instances. Is there an exception here? What am I missing?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Weinig is not actually an adjective, so you can't necessarily expect the rules for whether to decline an adjective to apply. However, in this case the result would be the same even if weinig were an adjective.

  • Weinig bier is not a plural. So it's a singular.
  • Weinig bier is not definite (it doesn't have a definite article or demonstrative). So it's indefinite.

(Indefinite singulars often come with the indefinite article een (= a), but sometimes they don't. This happens much more often for uncountable nouns such as bier than for countable nouns, just like in English.)

When it comes to Dutch adjective declension, indefinite singular is when things get tricky. This is because you then need to know the noun's gender, and since there is no definite article present that tells you about it, you have to know it. Let's use a proper adjective instead of weinig, and let's contrast the het word bier with the de word wijn (= wine):

  • Wij drinken een klein bier. Wij drinken goed bier.
  • Wij drinken een kleine wijn. Wij drinken goede wijn.

The rule is that for indefinite singular adjectives, -e is added for de words, but not for het words.

As I said in the beginning, weinig doesn't behave like an adjective in general. It never gets the indefinite singular -e, not even for de words:

  • Wij drinken weinig bier
  • Wij drinken weinig wijn.

However, bier being a het word, for this particular sentence there is no difference.


Note: I'm a native speaker of German, not Dutch, and some of what I wrote was a bit tricky to verify. This is because most grammatical sources don't discuss weinig in detail and incorrectly assume that indefinite singulars always come with een. If anything is wrong, I hope a native Dutch speaker will soon correct it.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarimerP
MarimerP
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Thank you for the detailed explantation. I ran across this sentence in Duolingo, De weinige, interessante boeken zijn duur. Why did Duo placed an e on weinige? Is it because it's boeken and not boek?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Excellent point. Again, I tried to find out what's going on based on my German native speaker intuitions plus Google searches. It appears that weinige before plurals normally occurs only in expressions of the form "éen van de weinige ..." (= "one of the few ...").

However, here we are in a special situation that would be ambiguous without any inflections because weinig can be used both like an ajdective when counting things, or as an adverb to indicate the degree (intensity) of an adjective. This problem doesn't exist in English in this form because in English you would switch between few and little and also vary the word order. Or if you want to keep the word order, use not very instead of little. Here is how it works in German:

  • Die wenigen, interessanten Bücher sind teuer. - The few interesting books are expensive.
  • Die wenig interessanten Bücher sind teuer. - The not very interesting books are expensive.

The ending -e is what remains in Dutch of the complex West Germanic declension system. Whereas for weinig, Dutch has dropped even the -e inflection completely in general, I guess in this particular context this hasn't happened yet because people still pronounce it to resolve the ambiguity:

  • De weinige, interessante boeken zijn duur. - The few interesting books are expensive.
  • De weinig interessante boeken zijn duur. - The not very interesting books are expensive.

Now we can speculate on what will happen in the future. The inflection -e will probably disappear completely because in most cases it doesn't really serve a purpose any more. It will become so unusual that a lot of people will drop it even in the first case above. As a result, the second case will become genuinely ambiguous in Dutch, with nothing careful speakers can do about it other than varying the sentence construction or using different words, e.g. niet zeer instead of weinig. This may be exactly what happened in English.

Unfortunately, the current situation with Dutch grammar is that there are some very weird rules for use of the -e inflection on adverbs.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Judi.MD

For MarimerP's sentence, 'weinig' is better considered as a 'quantifier' (a type of 'determiner') rather than as an adjective or adverb, because it is saying something about the number of the books (rather than their color, weight, interest, etc). See Wiktionary.com. When doing this, the mystery goes away.

De weinige interessante boeken Here, the definite form (weinege) is used because 'De' is referring to specific books. Therefore, "The few interesting books..."

Weinig interessante boeken... Here, the indefinite form (weinig) is used because the sentence speaks of books generally. Therefore, "Few interesting books..."

De weinig interessante boeken Here, the adverbial form (weinig) is used because it is quantifying the adjective 'interessante', saying there is 'little' interest, rather than saying there are 'few' books. Therefore, "The books of little interest..."

For MarimerP's sentence, the choice of inflection ('weinig' vs 'weinige') has nothing to do with the 'number' of books ('boek' vs 'boeken') or with 'gender', but only whether it's definite or general.

9 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarimerP
MarimerP
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Thank you so much!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SeanMeaneyPL
SeanMeaneyPL
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I heard wijn of bier instead of weinig bier the first time I listened. My ears!

But my main point is to help guardie16 out with a little beer and little beer

A little beer = Some beer, A small amount of beer (Enkel, enig, sommige bier) Little beer = Not much beer (Weinig bier is best for this meaning). We do not drink much beer = we drink little beer We drink some beer = We drink a little beer.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/clrtnb
clrtnb
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I was given "We drink not a lot of beer" as the correct translation but that is strange English. I don't think Duolingo should use it.

As a Canadian native speaker I accept the rather odd "We drink little beer" as above but would only say "We don't drink much beer."

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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I believe weird 'corrections' usually happen when you enter an answer that isn't in the database of correct answers (because it's wrong, because of a typo, because the database is still incomplete ...) and Duolingo searches in its database of correct answers for whatever it considers most similar to your answer. Sometimes very unnatural answers, or even wrong ones that were accepted in error, turn up in this process.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/orionoda
orionoda
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Is weinig only for uncountable nouns? For example, can I say Wij eten weinig boterhammen? or would that be Wij eten niet vele boterhammen or Wij eten vele boterhammen niet? Sorry, I suck at word order haha

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Unlike the situation in English, veel and weinig are used for countable and uncountable nouns alike. But note that when the noun is a definite plural, weinig becomes weinige. In formal Dutch, veel also becomes vele in this case:

  • Ik heb veel boeken. Mijn veel/vele boeken ...
  • Ik heb weinig boeken. Mijn weinige boeken ...

You can of course use niet veel instead of weinig. The correct word order is as in "Wij eten niet veel/vele boterhammen" because niet negates veel. However, if you want to negate the verb eten instead, then niet is part of the verb group and as such is moved to the end of the sentence.

  • There are many sandwiches that we do not eat. (standard English version)
  • Many sandwiches we do not eat. (more formal)
  • Many sandwiches, we eat not. (Shakespeare English)
  • Vele boterhammen eten wij niet.

Your sentence "Wij eten vele boterhammen niet" would be understood in this way as well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/orionoda
orionoda
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Dude, you're the man, thanks a million!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Alin72304

The translation is: We don t drink much beer , but i don t see any negation! How am I supposses to know is a negation?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CJ.Dennis
CJ.Dennis
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The direct translation is "We drink little beer" which means "We don't drink much beer". There is no negation in the Dutch sentence.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BacchanalianFire

Would "Wij drinken veel bier" be the opposite, we drink much beer?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/zizu1
zizu1
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"We drinken weinig bier" was corrected to "Wij (...)". Why? Isn't this the same?

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/El2theK
El2theK
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It is accepted, though if it is a type what you hear exercise it only accepts wij here due to the difference in pronunciation.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JamesSutto8

"we are drinking few beers" seems to be acceptable to me but not Duo.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/El2theK
El2theK
Mod
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Because the sentence is about the amount of beer someone drinks, not about the number of beers.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JamesSutto8

few beers is about 'amount' as you put it, 'a few' would be different.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mrbennet
mrbennet
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No, 'few beers' is about number. 'Few' is about number of countable things (like beers); 'little' is about quantity of something uncountable (like beer). It's a pretty trivial distinction in this case, but Duo has to be strict about grammar.

2 years ago